Saturday, October 24, 2009

Haggis, Neeps and Tatties

It's about 1am. I'm sitting here on a very comfy bed in the servant's quarters of the George Hotel in Invarary. It's a full-service pub/hotel, and it has quite a large live-in staff. The rooms are just spectacular, and although where we're staying is pretty austere, it's warm, cosy and clean, and as a muso, one can't ask for much more. It's closing time, and I can hear merry drunk people with thick Scots accents staggering out in the street. One guy just yelled out "Hey! I jus fart-ted!' in an absolute perfect Big Yin voice. The split in the word is intentional, as you can tell if you say it out loud like Billy Connolly.

Tonight's dinner was a pie made of Angus beef braised in local ale, with tatties and neeps. Sarah devoured smoked haddock (smoked about 70 metres from here by an old man who's family have smoked fish for generations and uses smouldering old oak whisky barrels or, if he's feeling saucy and wants more interestingly-flavoured fish, port or sherry barrels). Needless to say, it tasted spectacular. Bridge schnozzled into a tagliatelle made with about 5 different kinds of local fish, finished in a crayfish sauce. The food on this trip has been just incredible. I'm not sure we'd ever tire of the endless variations of fish and chips (haddock, pollack, cod, plaice, sole... all battered to some secret family recipe using the local grog and served with proper chips -new potatoes if we're lucky. But it's the other meals that are stunning us. Haggis, neeps (turnips -it makes sense if you say the word), thick, glorious butter, clotted cream, organic breads, duck, venison...oh the venison... even wild boar sausages (tasted like very heavy bacon), Scottish smoked salmon, Mull and Orkney Cheddars, and beautiful asparagus. I could be a cook here I think. Most places seem to source their food locally, and because of that the menus change daily. Then there the sweets. Scottish fudge (called tablet) is crumbly and just dissolves on the tongue, but like Lembas bread, only fat hobbits and Celtic musos can eat more than one. Hazelnut pavlova, sticky toffee pudding in fudge and chocolate reduction, local ice cream (including one called caramelitta which is to die for) and apple pies....

Now I'm sitting here hungry, and all we have in the room are the schnack bags full of crap. We have to stop eating the crap.

The food distracted me. I originally here to write a quiet blog about tonight's gig while the girls got ready for bed. Last night was great. The pub was choccas and there was a wonderful group in for a pre-wedding night out. There was much dancing and carrying on, and I think finally all our fears of selling snow to the Eskimos have been dispelled. We have been welcomed here beyond belief, and though Scotland is in the grip of a huge resurgence in traditional instrumental geniuses, to have such reassuring things said to us by the likes of the Peatbog Faeries, who are icons here, is just well, quite humbling.

Tonight, we were told, would be a little different, as later on the local shinty trams would arrive. We paced ourselves, saving a good stock of our fast stuff for later, and lucky we did. Tonight was frenetic, mad, loud, hot (poor Sarah had to stand basically next to a roaring fire) and essentially Scottish; great heart and warm humour. We played our arses off, and they danced theirs away. It was triffic. We met some great people, Fiona, Chris and Wendy that Bridge hasn't seen since she was four, and Russell, the philosopher who was one of the most enthusiastic people I've met for a long time. You got me thinking, sir!

So now we're buggered. Bridge is laying in bed reading Pullman's The Subtle Knife, Sarah is nose-deep in a book on Scottish Myths & Legends (after devouring her book on Mary Queen of Scots this afternoon), and I'm about to get back to my Journal of Tibet. All I can hear is the gentle trickle of the rain (which has really settled in now), the tap tap of the MacBook keys and occasionally, a distant seagull. This place it very settling.

So, tomorrow. We have a day off! Or at least, a day where we don't need to get to a gig. So in true Súnas fashion, rather than just take it easy and pootle around Argyll, we're hopping into Mick Jaguar and taking off for Inverness, via Loch Ness, which we all want to see (and Urquhart castle). A nice 5 hour drive. There, we're going to head to Cawdor, land of the dread MacBeth to track down some of Sarah's clan. She's a Cawdor Campbell (not the tricksy Glen Coe ones!).

Oh, and the clocks get wound back an hour here tonight, which means and EXTRA HOUR IN BED! These things are important. We missed the hotel breakfast yesterday as we had our first lie-in of the Scottish part, and we're determined not to tomorrow. Food!!

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